“…for those who are disillusioned with the mainstream parties and looking for a fresh political vision, going Green on May 7th would be a profound delusion.”
So Gillan Scott writes in his Archbishop Cranmer blog.
When I read through the post, with its undertone that no true Christians would vote for the Green Party, never mind join, I wondered if I had indigestion. No – actually, it was a bowel-ward fire of indignation. Reading certain comments only added to the acid reflux.
The kind of thinking that informs this post and subsequent comments reduces Christianity to a tiny corner of life. A sort of holy box wherein only certain things must go and dissent must be checked at the lid.
Inside the box we have sexuality, right to life, and criticism of the nation state of Israel. Any other subject is an ideological free-for-all.
Any non-Christian observer inspecting this box might well assume that sex is the root of all kinds of evil and money is the root of all kinds of good.
I would like to set the record straight.
My dangerous journey in mixing faith and politics began with a book on theological economics; a dazzling work called ‘Root of All Evil?’ by Antonia Swinson. (A book strongly endorsed, I might add, by Keith Tondeur and Kevin Cahill.) The question the author asked was: “What has the Bible got to say about economics?”
I was expecting a treatise on personal spending, but what I read went so much further than that. The author examined the rules on finance and ownership in the Torah and asked – if we applied those same principles today; what would our economic policy look like?
Her conclusions stayed with me ever since.
The more I discovered about the Green Party, the more I realised that I might finally have found a political home for my theological conclusions. A party that has dared to paint a picture of world where our economy isn’t based on crippling personal debt; where the creation of money is democratised; where true economic equality is feasible; where the playing field for all people is level. I think I’d call it – not the American Dream, but the Mosaic Dream.
I believe that the love of money is indeed the root of all kinds of evil. As it’s a subject that’s one of the most important to Jesus, it’s one of the most important to me. And one of the key subjects that has informed my choice of party. This, alongside such wonderful ideas as:
- Devolving and spreading out power as much as possible to the people, so that it corrupts as little as possible;
- Prioritising creation care and preventing animal cruelty;
- Reuniting families torn apart by visa rules that prevent spouses from joining their children;
- A refreshing focus on what is best for people rather than best for GDP, which would – for example – allow parents to spend more time with their kids instead of being pushed out to work;
- Having the teaching curriculum set by teachers rather than by government, giving educators the freedom to teach in the way they see fit, treating children as whole individuals rather than units of economic production.
Those are all things – along with prayer, advice and careful thought – that prompted me to stand as the Green Party’s candidate for the wonderful constituency of West Ham.
So, I encourage any Christian to decide who to vote for based on that party’s policies, and not on the demographics of their candidates.
Rachel Collinson is the Green Party candidate for West Ham. FInd out more about her here.
4 thoughts on “Jesus and the Greens”
Excellent post, well done.
Thank you for that response. I have no wish to question the sincerity of Green Christians, or to comment on how the party treats them; that’s up to you lot.
The problem I have is that I believe that the Green Party, like many other Christians on the left, are going about the problem of financial inequality and poverty in very much the wrong way.
You quote 1 Timothy 6 about the love of money, but you do not give the full verse, which reads: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
Note SOME have wandered away, not ALL. It would be thoroughly illogical if it said anything else, because the early Christian communities pooled their resources and money amongst themselves; as many were poor and/or devoted themselves to preaching, teaching, community management etc., the early Christians could not have survived without people who pursued wealth and money, and then used that wealth to support the community. Many early Christians made a lot of money; what differentiated them from those who had wandered from the faith was how they used their wealth, not the fact that they made a lot of it. In other words, without wealth creators and benefactors the early Christians could not have survived and evangelised in the way that they did, and Paul knew this.
If you are arguing that much of the way capitalism is conducted is immoral, then I would have to agree with you. Where the Greens and I differ is what you do about it. If you attempt to enforce Christian financial morality through the kind of heavy-handed, state-enforced wealth redistribution that your party favours then all you will end up with is the destruction of wealth creation, as has been seen every time it has ever been tried, with catastrophic consequences. You cannot give money to the poor if you do not have any in the first place; how, exactly, are you going to fund all this largesse if you drastically reduce the amount of wealth available? Christian capitalism will benefit the poor an awful lot more than Christian Socialism; much capitalism is not Christian, but you cannot force it to be through state action without killing the goose that lays the golden egg. What must happen is that the consciences of those creating wealth are transformed by the love of Christ voluntarily.
You quote Swinson: “where the creation of money is democratised; where true economic equality is feasible;” These aims are a contradiction in terms; you cannot democratise the creation of money either by drastically restricting the ability of people to create it or by removing the incentive to do so through state redistribution.
Capitalism is far from perfect, but whilst Christianity condemns the LOVE of money it does not condemn, and indeed relies on, the creation of money, which is precisely what Green Party policies would so disastrously affect. You cannot redistribute what you do not have, and you cannot fulfil the Christian duty of voluntary charity if you have nothing to give.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. It’s like a breath of fresh air compared to some of the personal and insulting comments Christian Greens have received from those claiming to be Christians (far far worse than anything levelled at us from within the Green Party – not that there really is any when I announce that I am pro-life).
You are right to point out that the snippet of 1 Timothy 6 has been curtailed. But there are plenty of verses that support the sentiment otherwise – “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” from 1 Tim 6, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you… You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” and plenty from the words of Jesus Himself, too.
However, there’s an important distinction we need to make here, and it is the distinction between wealth/riches and income/money. I think Christians lose something when they conflate the two. I define wealth/riches as capital, and income as what you earn. The Bible seems to rail against hoarding capital, but it has a lot less to say about how much income is enough. If you understand these definitions, then everything falls into place – it is not earning lots of money that the Bible criticises, but hoarding the means to produce money.
And if you look at the economic system set out in the Torah, you can see this in action. Each family had a plot of land (capital/wealth) allocated to them. They were allowed to buy more land, and make as much money as they wanted, but every 50 years this would be reset. Not only were loans cancelled but land ownership was then redistributed as well. Heavy-handed redistribution? I’m afraid it looks rather like that to me.
However – this was by no means communist, or even socialist – it was a free market system, but with strong limits. That’s what the Green Party believes in, and so we propose Land Value Tax, the Robin Hood Tax and a Wealth Tax. These are not punitive, but they simply ensure that the rich don’t pull away from the poor so drastically – exactly what the Mosaic laws intended. So we are neither socialist/communist or free market capitalists – we are something entirely different. And people are finding this really hard to grasp, as they don’t yet have the linguistic boxes to put us in.
I think there is a slight error in what you have written. I did not quote Swinson – those words were entirely my own. Again unfortunately we have the confusion between money creation and wealth creation. By democratising the creation of money, I do not mean that the government should own all capital. What I mean is that the power to create money should be returned to the people.
Now, this is difficult to get your head around because so few people talk about it, and it’s certainly not taught in school.
Currently, private banks create money whenever they make a loan. No money is deducted from anywhere else to grant that loan – it appears with the wave of a financial wand. What the Green Party wants to do is to let the people decide when and where that money gets created and for what, rather than private interests.
Finally – I agree with you (if I extrapolate what I think you’re implying from the confusion over definitions) that it’s important to create income. And most income is created in this country by small businesses being established and growing, rather than large corporations.
I myself am a small business owner – some would say entrepreneur – and have created numerous jobs in my time. The times my business grew most quickly were when I was given grants, training or interest free loans from the state. This worked best when I was allowed to choose for myself what to spend the money on rather than having a beaurocrat decide what should be given to me.
Thus, I absolutely love Green Party policy on small business:
– abolishing employers’ national insurance contributions
– having progressive Corporation tax (allowing small businesses to grow faster and create more jobs)
– ending subsidies for multinational corporations that mean it’s difficult for small businesses to compete
– providing citizens’ income; venture capital for the people
– evening out the burden of tax by allowing income to be averaged over 5 years
The Green Party is more libertarian and free-market friendly than you might think. Unfortunately it’s the poor economic education we receive in this country, and the lack of open-mindedness to new paradigms that holds us back. I hope to change this, starting with education.
Many blessings to you…